Thursday is National White Wine Day, and your first question may be who gets to determine when such occasions fall on the calendar, and why. Let’s face it: it’s too hot right now for questions that steam up brain cells like that. This year, let your question be an easy one: Dry or sweet?
Central Virginia is blessed with award-winning, high-quality wineries, and each has selections to make your palate sing. We are truly spoiled here with natural and personal resources. Whisking out-of-town guests to local wineries to show off the quality of the local vintages is as easy this time of year as presenting local wines as holiday gifts will be when winter returns. And one of the best ways to avoid cooking in summer’s heat is to escape to a local winery — or two, or three — and find out what your server and winemaker will recommend for you to enjoy with that intriguing, refreshing white.
Wait for the weekend if you must, but make plans and reservations now to indulge in a little tasting and day tripping in honor of National White Wine Day. Take a few minutes online at monticellowinetrail.com to learn more about the member wineries of our own Monticello Wine Trail. All 40 of them are within 25 miles of Charlottesville, which means you won’t be guzzling that other valuable elixir — gasoline — to get there.
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By nature, No-Cook Cooking cooks are open to fresh and innovative ideas, because we’re curious about food and presentation, and we’ll do almost anything to stay out of the kitchen whenever we can. If you love foodie fun and spending time with your friends, visiting a winery — or a local winery’s booth at a festival or concert — is a great way to do some quiet recognition to learn what to serve that goes well with different wines.
Ask, ask, ask. People who love wine are gracious about sharing suggestions for the most complementary fruits, main dishes, sides, desserts and cheeses to pair with the bottles you’ll be taking home. Your server, winemaker, sommelier and chef may make recommendations that will make you look like the hostess of the year. It’s good advice to follow anywhere you go where you might be tempted to buy too much of something heavenly and then scramble to use it to best advantage — think orchards, farmers markets and anywhere handmade chocolate is sold — and it makes educating yourself that much more delightful.
Ask your white wine-loving friends where they land on the dry-to-sweet continuum. If you discover some polarizing opinions, you’ve just discovered the official reason for your next outing together.
To keep it fair, let your sweet-wine aficionado select the place to show off the choices he or she loves so that everyone in your party can give them an honest try. And then plan an event at which your dry-wine enthusiast chooses the venue and the vino. You get to go with an open mind and look like a hero for organizing summer entertaining with an educational twist and some lasting learning. Think of it as an elevated staycation with purpose and taste.
Always tip your servers well, and come up with a creative way to reward your designated driver. Apple cider donuts? Dark chocolate delights from the winery’s bakery? Having everyone else chip in to cover the driver’s share of the tab? You still have time to choose something special to show your appreciation. Safety is its own reward, of course, but treat your designated driver like the queen she is or the king he is.
You may get home buzzing with ideas for creating your own cheese plates, charcuterie boards or dessert trays to play up the wines you’ll end up taking home. Recipes for marinades, salad dressings and other moments of cooking genius are as close as your favorite wineries’ websites, too, so start there whenever you’re stumped and dinner refuses to make itself again.
If you’re thinking of driving farther afield, or meeting friends from DC or North Carolina halfway, visit virginiawine.org first to learn more about wineries across the commonwealth.
While you’re at the table or bar, lift a glass to toast Virginia viticulture, small businesses, family businesses, farm-to-table alchemy, workplace families who’ve stuck together through thick and thin, the gods and goddesses of food service and the ancient fellowship of people united by breaking bread and loving the land. Here’s to your health, and lasting happiness.